tv This Week in Northern California PBS May 10, 2013 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
turmoil at the top in oakland. two days after police chief howard jordan abruptly stepped down, another shakeup. prison realignment under attack. again. the latest comes from lieutenant governor abel maldonado. >> i'm here to discuss an issue that threatens the lives of every californian. >> pg&e faces a record fine for the blast. more than $2 billion. plus, former bay area comic w. kamau bell, totally honest, totally unfiltered about his hit show "totally biased." >> as a black person in america, you have to find humor in race, or you'll go crazy. >> coming up next.
good evening. welcome to this week in northern california. joining me are tom vacar, carla marinucci, and matthai kuruvila. the sudden departure of howard jordan on wednesday for unspecified medical reasons left the police force, civil leaders and community in shock. today, just 48 hours later, jordan's replacement stepped down, and another chief, the third in three days, was named.
matthai, what happened today, and how is the city reacting to all of this turbulence at the top? >> well, what happened today is largely the result of a court order that oakland has been struggling with for over a decade. and there's an abuse scandal in 2000, and that led to a series of reforms that the city has been unable to comply with, for years now. and there's a compliance director that was appointed by the court in march, who has tremendous power to fire -- even to fire the chief. the speculation is that he had a heavy influence on both, not only having the chief leave, but also the creation of -- putting in these new chiefs in today. >> the appointed person you talk about, thomas frazier. >> yes. >> are you saying then that he went in to the city officials and said this person must go, that person must go, that person must go? >> we don't know that for sure, but we know he has the power to
do that. we know he was extremely unsatisfied with howard jordan and his leadership. and over the course of these last three days, the mayor, gene quaun, and the city administrator had replaced four of the five command staff in the police department. so frazier had made it very clear he was unhappy with the command staff, and the response a week later is to remove almost all of them. >> i think the most amazing aspect of this is the police chief, howard jordan, resigning just minutes before this critical report was about to come out, as you reported, saying it is a medical leave that he needed. would you talk a little bit about that? apparently everyone was blindsided by this medical aspect. how much more money does he end up if he has a medical leave? this is a question you've got to ask. >> if he's in his 40s -- >> and apparently no one 'n' anything about the medical
condition. >> we don't know the exact extent of how much money he'll get on his pension. my understanding is because this is a medical leave, there's certain tax incentives to his pension that will kick in. >> is there going to be any sort of investigation into this? is this questionable? does this raise eyebrows in oakland? >> he will have to prove it first. there are many people raising their eyebrows, particularly because there are three reports critical of the police department in the last week. and then he re signed. >> let me ask you one question. there are two groups, what does this do for the mayor's standing? and does this give any advantage to the gangs that probably have to be pretty happy about all the chaos inside the police department, because that's their primary adversary? >> i don't know about the gangs, but we do know we have these two separate paths in oakland. the oversight is having tremendous impact, replacing
chiefs, and command staff. and at the same time, you have a crime problem that's really off the charts. highest violent crime rate in the state. burglaries, there are 13,000, i believe, last year, in the city of oakland. one of the reports that came out this week is the police department only had one part-time investigator looking into 13,000 burglaries. you know, it's -- for a resident of oakland, that's not -- >> right there, we've heard frustration for a long time from the people from oakland. burglaries, home burglaries, no response, even from police who want to respond. because there's nobody there to help. is mayor thompson taking heat at this point? what can be expected, as the mayor's race is going to start heating up there? >> the mayor's very concerned. and so she has -- she's very -- she's pushed for increased police academy, pushed for
hiring of more civilians. she's very much aware that she has to change the discussion about crime in the months and year to come, for sure, before she runs for reelection next year. >> let's talk about the residents of oakland as well. this is like blow after blow after blow. what a week for oakland. this is on top of the staggering statistics that have come out. the city had 131 homicides last year. the most since 2006. robberies jumped 29% last year. burglaries 43%. it has the highest robbery rate of any major city in the nation? and then now you have this crazy week. what's that like for residents? >> it's very confusing, and very disconcerting. residents are really frustrated. i see it on the e-mail list serves, i see it in discussions on the street. you know, for many residents, what the court does isn't necessarily their issue. they just want a police officer to show up at their house when there's a burglary. at least an evidence technician. but there's these two different
paths. i think most residents don't necessarily care about what's happening with the court. but they do very much care about how they -- how crime is handled. >> it's not just the courts that have gotten involved. the city commissioned a consultant, a very high-profile one, former new york city police commissioner william brand, he also came out with findings this week. and was quite critical. what were some of the findings, and how will they be implemented? or if they'll be implemented? >> i should clarify one thing. there are important things to the court order. this is something a lot of residents care about. which is creating a police department that complies with the constitutional policing. that's absolutely a huge part of what residents want. as far as william bratten, the former new york police commissioner, his report this week identified all these shortcomings in the police department. the lack of investigators, the lack of thorough investigations. you had ten people investigating
4,100 robberies last year. on burglaries, they weren't submitting fingerprints. you know, there's a 50% hit rate on fingerprints on burglaries. and there are over 200 fingerprints submitted last year that didn't even get put into a data base. there would have been somebody theoretically caught if they followed the similar patterns. >> we'll see how this shakes out. but wow, what a week for the city of oakland. >> all right. thank you. abel mol da nad oh, former republican lieutenant governor took aim at the prison system this week when he wants to shift responsibility for lower-level felons away from state prisons to city and county supervision. realignment has been in effect for over a year, but has been criticized for letting some offenders off too easy. >> it's an issue that affects the quality of life and safety of every citizen of my home state of california.
today is the beginning and end of early release. we must act now, and let's put this -- end this early release system away. >> carla, why is maldonado doing this and what kind of reaction is he getting? >> i think maldonado has one thing in his target and that is running for governor in 2014. he plans on challenging jerry brown. i think it's dramatic, because the whole issue of early release and realignment does have a certain resonance with people. when you talk about letting out dangerous criminals. the state's in a bind here. the courts are saying, the prisons are overcrowded. deal with it, jerry brown. jerry brown's fighting that and saying, we don't want to let out too many more people. maldonado knows this is an issue maybe he can get some traction on. what's interesting about this is, right now, the state is
pretty much owned by the democrats. the legislature, every statewide office. jerry brown looks to be in very good shape. he hasn't even declared he's running again. but if maldonado doesn't run, who do the republicans have? they have a southern california legislator, he used to be in the minute men group. latino voters would go running screaming away from that. i mean, right now, maldonado has a very interesting life story. he's the son of mexican immigrants. he grew up in the strawberry fields of santa maria. he's a moderate republican. but he's got that "r" after his name in california. even though he's run for statewide office a couple of times here, lieutenant governor, korn congress, hasn't had any luck. 29% voter registration, some people are saying this may be the best chance to get a
republican out there. >> if some of these released prisoners happens, it's awful. let's just assume that one of these people get loose, or several of them, do some really horrific things, does that improve his position? >> he tried to make a press conference this week with a large photo of a convict named jerome rogers -- >> yeah. >> it turns out it was a total misstep, because the guy was released -- had a horrible record, rape and so forth. the fact is, jerry brown had nothing to do with it. he was released in 2000. it was sort of seen as a willie horton kind of moment. that's the convict that was used in the presidential race. michael dukakis and george h.w. bush. the thing is, you run into some of these racial issues. but it is an issue. the prison release issue possibly could work. the fact is that jerry brown
is -- may be sort of a little vulnerable on this issue. on the other hand, some of the polls are showing, look, californians are saying, we don't want to build any more prisons. we know they're overcrowded. the three strikes was great, but we need to do something about the schools. maybe this public safety issue is not as slam-dunk as it used to be for republicans. >> but it seems like he did have a serious misstep, going back to the press conference. >> right. >> the whole racial issue. the naacp not wanting to apologize. how has he reacted to that? >> our editorial page editor said he was sorry about using the photo. but he's not sorry about raising the issue. i think we'll hear more from him on this issue. jerry brown, and the democrats, those are some of the issues they're going to have to face. the economic issues in california, taxes in california. maldonado is a very moderate republican.
he's one of the reasons we have the top two primary right now in california. he was the one republican vote that voted for sort of higher taxes in california, and he got that as part of the deal. a lot of republicans hate him for it to this day, think he's a republican in name only. the fact is, maybe we're going to see a case where you have a moderate republican going into latino neighborhoods, talking about issues. and that could be kind of interesting in the coming governor's race. >> is jerry brown going to run? >> i think jerry brown runs. >> by the way, he hasn't responded directly. but there's no question they're watching this. the democrats were all over this misstep at the press conference. jerry brown's poll numbers are high. we're talking about a historic fourth term in california. so this could be really interesting, considering he's 76. maldonado's in his 40s. could be a generational battle.
>> but incumbents usually win in california. it's been that case for the last 70 years or so. >> thank you, carla. >> okay. well, a penalty, that's been almost three years in the making. after a 2010 explosion in san bruno left eight people dead and more than 30 homes destroyed, a record fine has been proposed for pg&e. $2.25 billion, a panel of the county of the public utilities commission made the recommendation. tom, where would the money could from? it's a staggering amount. and what kind of improvements would pg&e use it for? >> first of all, they've already spent $1.5 billion. the money is not in the bank cording to the ceo i spoke with earlier this week. they have to go out and raise that money. you have to ask yourself, investors looking at pg&e and saying, they've got to come up with basically 10% of the value of their company. this company's worth about $21 billion in the stock market. they've got to come up with 10%
of their entire corporate value to pay off a fine. and part of that is going to be to improve the system. but what's interesting about that is, that you have to look at where the money's going. about half of it would go for continued future improvements, all of this paid by shareholder dollars. about $1 billion would go directly into california's general fund. here's where some criticisms have arisen. the california public utilities commission, an absolute creature of the state of california, is up to its neck in culpability in this thing. they said we're not fair-minded regulators of pg&e. they were way too cozy. pg&e would ask for money for something, and then they wouldn't spend it on that because of some other circumstance, and all of that stuff. and they kept asking for things, for money to be paid to do this, to do that. that was granted. a lot of the repairs were never made. primary example of that is a pipe that's finally replaced in
south san francisco, that would have probably failed in a major earthquake. that was one they got $5 million for, and never replaced the pipe. a lot of people are saying, wait a minute, california needs the $1 billion to say the least. but is it fair for the shareholders of pg&e to supplement the budget of the state of california rather than to fix the system? that's where a lot of people, including the ceo, and other people say, this doesn't make any sense. plus, and this is a harder one to swallow, because this is how lawyers look at cases. there was a death of a man in rancher car dove a a few years back, the penalty for that, the destruction of his house was $38 million. if you do a straight mathematical analysis, this fine should probably be somewhere between $300 million or $300 million, not $2.25 billion. >> do the pg&e officials acknowledge that? saying they found more than 500 violations.
if they would have taken it violation by violation, it would have been a staggering sum. but pg&e could never afford that. >> and that's perfectly okay. a lot of people support that idea. but the penalty to the shareholders has to be so great, that never again will this, or any other utility undertake to put profits ahead of safety and all of that stuff. the question is, if that $1 billion goes to the state of california, is it not better spent put into the ground to make the system better? is it not better spent to improve and enhance safety, monitoring, more valves, more of the things that would prevent a real disaster from happening? and some people simply say, this is the state of california, trying to cash in on something that it's partially responsible for. >> and how do you defend that? >> pg&e says, we are the puc. the puc in place right now. not of 50 years ago when the mistake was made. not of 25 years ago. not even five or ten years ago when we were cozy with -- this is what we have to do.
we take our oaths very seriously, we take our office very seriously, and therefore, we're going to make sure that this message gets sent. that is a legitimate message to make. the point is, if pg&e has to borrow that money at a very high interest rate and borrow money to improve the system at a very high interest rate, that will come out of the hide of rate payers. >> i don't want to let you go, because i know you've already covered the bay bridge. i don't want to let you go without touching on that. how are they going to repair the bay bridge and how much is it going to cost and will it open on time? >> it's not sure we'll open on time. they still think they can do this work, and basically what they're going to do instead of having bolts hold down this earthquake brace, what they're going to do is wrap a saddle over the sides of it, literally a steel saddle, and it will be tied down to the pillar that holds the whole bridge up. it will be tied down with 400 of the very strongest cables that
there are. it will probably be as strong, or stronger than the original design. will it work? very likely it will work, cording to engineers i talked to. but this is monumental in terms of the size of work that has to be done. and therefore, it is going to take time. the question is, can they make it by labor day. it's anybody's guess right now, but they say they can. >> the cost, $10 million -- >> $5 million to $10 million, which is more than the $1 million they originally estimated. but most of the engineers i've spoken to, and it's been quite a few, say that's a very good ballpark figure. >> sounds good. tom, thanks for the update. well, is the name k. kamau bell rings a bell, that's because before going to new york to host his show "totally biased" the comic calls the bay area home. his long-running one-man show "the bell curve" ran in san francisco for years. he was discovered by chris rock, and executive producer of "totally biased." he went to a daily schedule in
the fail. bell was back in san francisco recently and sat down with josh yeah johnson for some laughs. first, a clip from "totally biased" with w. kamau bell. >> this week the state of mississippi shocked everybody by passing a piece of legislation. 148 years after the civil war, finally ratified the 13th amendment. that's abolishing slavery. oh, and i know what the 13th amendment is. i keep a copy of it in my wallet in case i have to go south of maryland. and if i lose that, i have a tattoo of it on my chest. [ applause ] >> w. kamau bell, welcome. >> thank you for having me. >> at what point did you first realize that race could be funny? >> i think that's just been part of my life. as a black person in america, you sort of have to find humor
in race, or you'll go crazy. i think it's always been a part of my household. >> when did it become something accessible that you thought, oh, i can work with this? >> as a comic, i was just trying to do something funny. race was a difficult subject to get an audience involved. i couldn't get long form pieces out. so when i wrote the bell curve in about an hour, which i did every night, people were able to sort of understand the context of what i was talking about, and then the jokes were hit harder. >> whenever we talk about racism, we usually focus on, like, level five racism. that's the scary racism. the racism we read about in the history books. the racism we see on the 11:00 news. we call that texas racism. what about all those other levels of racism? we never talk about those. like level one racism. it happens every day. usually around the water cooler. at the xerox machine.
often while holding a latte. we call that berkeley racism. >> there's something about being the black guy with something to say, that means something culturally, that i don't know if you find that endearing or empowering or restrictive. how do you view that? >> the minute you step on stage, your vessel determines your audience. it's your job to play into that or subvert it. the more you're aware of what the audience expects of you, the more you can have fun playing with it. for me, there is a cultural history of the black having something to say. but not of the big black guy with something to say. and i think over time, i learned how to do that. as chris rock said about me talking to somebody else, like come out and express anger with a smile. i want to express my anger. but i have to do it in a way that doesn't clear the room. >> imagine like the first president, i don't think we imagined barack obama. we thought the first black president would be like, they get the dna of martin luther king jr. and put it together
with cassius clay. >> when did you first get interested in stand-up? >> once i found out you couldn't be a superhero -- >> that was it? >> i wanted to be spider-man or the incredible hulk. so i thought, well then i'll be bill cosby or eddie murphy. >> which gives you more power. >> bill cosby could buy and sell spider-man. >> you were born in palo alto, bounced around a lot. now in new york doing "totally biased". >> yes. >> how much did the bay area play into your, not only views of race, but comedy? >> the bay area comedy scene is legendary. like bruce, i think it was the first place to arrest lenny bruce. the bay area comic scene has been since the modern era of comedy, and turns out great
comedians. >> intimidating? >> exactly. but it's really -- at least when i was there, it's gotten a lot bigger. it's small and welcoming. if you show up and show loyalty and talent, the scene embraces you. and generally we like nice people. it's not really cut throat. if you're a good person and show loyalty to the clubs and you show talent, the scene really wants to promote you. the bay area likes raising new names. >> so you catch the attention of chris rock. >> yes. >> who decides this guy's got something i can do something with this. >> yeah. apparently that's what he decided. i was doing my show, "the bell curve" in new york, and i -- you know, as a comic, you know -- after you get to a certain level of comedy, you're only one or two degrees of separation from all comics. so i knew people who knew him. but he was still like a hollow gram to me. it was not somebody i thought i could talk to.
i didn't know he had been in the audience. he came backstage, dressed in black, like he was the matrix. >> which he may well have been. >> he said, yeah, you're funny. kind of like that. i don't think a lot of people are funny. take that for what that means. and i said, i'll quote you on that. and then he sort of -- like, where do you live? san francisco. he said, move. there's nothing there. by that he means, there's no industry here. that's true. i would stay here if there's the entertainment industry here. there is a little bit, but not full-time industry that can employ lots of people. and you can't make a national tv show here, as much as i would love to. >> you also described yourself, i have to admit i'm not sure i like this word, probably because it applies to me, too, as a blurred -- >> a black nerd? >> you actually get access to other black intelligent people. i want access to those people. i want those people to know i'm there for him. >> it's about opening the door? >> it's about opening the door.
once you get inside, do whatever you want to do. >> five nights a week, a big vote of confidence from fx. where do you want to go from here? >> i just have to get better at all aspects of being host of "totally biased." every television talk show host has gotten better at it. and finds their own style and becomes the brand. fx is going to give me the time to figure out my brand. i appreciate that. because i have to get better at all aspects of it. >> five nights a week. congratulations. thanks for talking to us. >> thanks for having me. >> funny guy. that's all for tonight. thanks so much for joining us. and thank you all for being here. and visit us anytime at kqed.org for archives of our show, to subscribe to our newsletter, podcasts or share your thoughts and story ideas. i'm thuy vu. thanks so much for watching. good night.
michele: on capitol hill riveting testimony about the attacks in benghazi. the diplomatic quandary in syria deepens. a bumpy road ahead for immigration reform. and the changing complexion of the american electorate. i'm michele norris. sitting in for gwen ifill tonight. on "lead off." >> at about 3:00 a.m. i received a call from the prime minister of libya. it was the saddest phone call i've ever had in my life. he told me that ambassador stevens had passed away. michele: emotional testimony about the attacks in libya that killed four americans. fact finding, finger pointing or both? >> the administration, however, has not been cooperative. >> what we've seen over the past two weeks is a full-scale media campaign of unfounded